BRING ON 2021

Here are 3 convincing reasons 2020 can't end fast enough for Houston fans

There's always next year. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

What the hell happened, Houston? Wasn't it just one season ago …

The Astros were defending American League champions, only a stunningly dumb manager's decision (I'm talking about the decision being dumb, but if you read that as the manager being dumb, go with it) from winning the World Series.

The Texans won the AFC South Division as usual, and with supremely gifted quarterback Deshaun Watson blossoming into his prime, J.J. Watt returning to full brilliance, it was full steam ahead for the playoffs and a bright future.

The Rockets were the one outside team that had a shooter's shot at toppling the Los Angeles LeBrons. With Russell Westbrook added to the Rockets' firepower, Houston was poised for a run at its first NBA title since Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler a generation ago. Yes, it's been a quarter-century since the Rockets' parade in downtown Houston.

And now?

The Astros are coming off a season with their best pitcher sidelined with Tommy John, their even better pitcher gone for Yankees blood money, their manager and team president suspended and fired for cheating, their best hitter and second-best hitter flirting with other teams in free agency, and their top reliever's whereabouts unknown. No shock, the Astros finished the 2020 regular season with a losing record.

Things aren't looking up. Free agent George Springer is in line for a Fort Knox deal from New York or Boston or anywhere but Houston. Michael Brantley may or may not be an Astro next year, the smart money is on not. Shamed team president Jeff Luhnow is suing the team for millions and millions. Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are coming off down seasons. First baseman Yuli Gurriel went into the dumper. Yordan Alvarez, their slugging 2019 Rookie of the Year played only two games in 2020. The Astros are targeting free agents, who in each case, are statistical downgrades from the player they'll be replacing. The 2021 Astros won't have a single player who received a single vote for MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year or Fireman of the Year this year. No Gold Glove winners, either. Although, come on, did nobody watch Carlos Correa this year?

Over the past 12 months, the Texans fired head coach Bill O'Brien and general manager Bill O'Brien. Team owner Cal McNair probably wished he had given more power to O'Brien so he could fire him from that, too. O'Brien did stick around long enough to trade superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a button and pocket lint. The Texans are a disastrous 2-6 with both wins coming against the even more disastrous Jacksonville Jaguars.

The greatest and most beloved Texan ever, J.J. Watt has made it clear that he wants out of Houston, and fans are rooting for the Texans to trade him. In the words of John Lennon, things "can't go no worse," right? Wrong, the Texans just fired vice-president of communications Amy Palcic, possibly their most popular employee. The reported reason, she didn't fit into the Texans' "culture." That word will come back to haunt the Texans when Palcic drags them into court. "Mr. Easterby, please tell the jury exactly what the Texans' 'culture' is."

The Rockets are a hot mess, who went cold from 3-point land in the playoffs – again. Veteran head coach Mike D'Antoni, who had the best winning percentage of any coach in Rockets history, and coveted general manager Daryl Morey have resigned (for lack of a better word). In both cases, they're being replaced by first-timers. Are the Rockets rebuilding? They're not.

Superstar (again for lack of a better word) Russell Westbrook is demanding a trade. He has $130 million left on his contract. Westbrook never really fit the Rockets' mold (the exact right word). Nobody depends more on three-pointers than the Rockets and Westbrook is an awful three-point shooter. Explain why you traded for him again? Danuel House and Eric Gordon don't like the way they're played. P.J. Tucker, 35, wants a lot more money. Austin Rivers is headed out the door. That leaves Rockets scoring machine James Harden, and if you listen to those blabbers on ESPN, he needs to go, too. No word on whether mascot Clutch the Bear is looking for loopholes in his contract.

Houston used to be a shining city on the hill for its smoothly functioning teams with winning records, admired front offices and love affair with fans. Now we're Detroit. Sports talk stations need to hire a special person just to push the bleep button. You can't tell the players with a scorecard. No doubt, 2020 will go down as annus horribilis for Houston sports. This is what rock bottom looks like.

So let's put on our coal miner's hat and dig deep for something positive to say about Houston's sports teams in 2020.

Got it! Dallas was even worse. That sort of makes the whole crappy year worth it.

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Houston's offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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